May 9 2008

Little White Lies Of The Music Industry

RIAA LogoRecently, Pete Cashmore, my boss at Mashable, had a chance to chat with well-known rapper, Chamillionaire. I know, it made me scratch my head also until I watched the video, and then it actually made sense.

It seems that Mr. Millionaire (er…) has done his homework on digital media and is embracing it on a personal level. He wants to be where the kids are, and that’s on sites such as YouTube, MySpace and so on. All-in-all, he seems to be honestly into the new media space as opposed to those who say they are, but immediately buckle under questioning, so kudos to him.

As for what got me to blog about this, at around the 2:43 mark, Pete asks Millionaire (okay… there’s something I never envisioned writing…) about his ringtone sales. The digital ringtone for “Ridin’ Dirty” sold over 4 million units, making it the most successful ringtone to date, while his actual album sold 1.4 million copies in comparison and this is where the “dirty little secret” I refer to comes in.

As you can see, he addresses the fact that if someone goes on to a download site and purchases 9 of his 10 tracks, the record company does not report this as an album sale because the consumer did not purchase the full album. Fair enough, you can’t argue with that logic. The problem is that record companies continue to always point to “declining album sales” as how badly the industry is doing as a whole.

However, were are the metrics to factor in the singles sales? While certainly not an infallible system, what if lets say an album has 10 tracks on it, when 10 singles are sold from it, no matter if it’s the same song 10 times, it could be counted as an album sale. I am not in love with this idea, but it is certainly better than droning on and on about how piracy is killing “album sales”.

This is also a clear indication of what I have been saying for years: Why should people buy a full album when the majority of it will be fluff? Services such as iTunes have finally put the power into the hands of the consumers, and they are voting with their wallets, telling the music industry that they will no longer be force fed the pablum that they pass off as “quality” any longer. If artists would focus on quality as much as they do their images, they would see single sales convert far more easily in to full album sales, making everyone involved happier.

Chamillionaire is 100% correct in his comments, and one can only hope that someday, those suits at the record companies will listen when their artists speak up like this.

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